Sunday, August 16, 2009


The giant house spiders are back. Giant as in, I saw a small tarantula this summer the size of one of these spiders. Plus, black widows to boot. We found a black widow spider outside of our front door, and then a second one the following night. The next day I saw a piece of styrofoam that looked like it could be a giant egg sack, and I sprayed it to death with spider-killing spray. I think I'm getting hyper-sensitive about the spiders.

Remember this bug? Insects can be scary when they're in places they don't belong. Like houses. Or cars.

I hope Iowa is scary-insect free for you.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

practice makes glove-perfect

Aren't these so much fun?
Sometimes the perfect pair of gloves takes multiple trials and errors to get it just right. This project had its origins over a year ago. Last last May, my aunt-in-law sent me a knitting book for my birthday on Latvian Mittens. I read it, and contemplated, and over the summer I ordered some yarn for what I thought would be the perfect project. Only, the colors that I saw when I opened my package were not exactly as I had interpreted them online; so much so that I abandoned all hope of using the yarn (at least on the intended project). Which just goes to show you that there's no substitute for seeing true colors in true person.

So then I decided, I can't fail too miserably in my color choices if I pick just two colors to work with. I happened to have enough yarn lying around in blue and white fingering and so I cast on for some lovely Latvian mittens. I'm still pleased about the color choice (lovely shade of blue), but not so pleased about the mittens-in-progress. Or should I say, mittens-that-will-never-be. Simply put, they're far too small. And I'm not pleased with this thumb gusset either. But most disheartening, is the fact that the pattern repeat ends far too soon, forcing the mitten to either be stumpy short or strangely patterned. Or, more likely, never finished. At the end of this, I'm not particularly interested in salvaging the project. It's just too tiresome. As you can see, I've already slipped the needles off to start up another project; I just didn't have the heart to unravel it all yet. If I knit a project out of this book (which I will, eventually--I just need some time to heal), it will be a different pattern, different color scheme, different yarn. The book is great, I just didn't seem to be able to plan well enough to pull it off.

Now, after all that, I still wanted a success, so I kept a tiny piece of hope alive, and lo and behold, some kind knitting individual came along, wrote up a free pattern, and even posted requirements for the exact yarn that was to be used. Although I don't think these are Latvian, it's still a similar concept, and it has taught me quite a bit about color selection simply from working the pattern. Amazing. Finally, a success story.

And even better, I found a way to make knitting gloves enjoyable. I turned the fingerless mittens into gloves, and it was all possible due to these itsy bitsy double pointeds that don't drive me crazy with their absurd length.
And thus, more than a year after my scheming began, I have finished two gloves. Two lovely, colorful, warm gloves. I think my aunt-in-law will enjoy these. And even if she protested that the other ones were just fine and that anything I made her would be just fine, I know in her heart, she was secretly hoping that I would knit her these very gloves.

Tell Archimedes hello from me!

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Arizona's medical school is starting classes this week, which seems absurdly early compared to the rest of the university. I still have three full weeks to soak in the sun and take some time for myself. As well as contemplate the new course that I will be teaching. LaKeisha and I have a new TA position in which we will be leading a supplemental instruction course for minority students in general chemistry. It's refreshing because it's new, and it's exciting because we are being given almost free reign to develop our own course. We'll be following the content covered in the lecture, but our supplemental instruction will include additional practice and training as to how to best learn general chemistry.

As I have been contemplating this new course, I ran across a book that I read while in high school. It had a couple of chapters devoted to the scientific process and scientific explanations. I found most intriguing the following passage:

“If a scientific theory makes successful predictions, and if it does not conflict with other well-established theories, and if it makes no false predictions, then, whatever its shortcomings, it is true.” (pg 77)

I find this passage infinitely fascinating. What is truth, really? What is a scientific truth? There are models we use in chemistry that help us to understand and predict the nature of atomic particles. If these models are useful, is that sufficient grounds to necessitate them being ‘truthful’ as well? I don’t actually know what to think about this, but it’s been tumbling around in my mind. Can truth be subjective? Must it be always absolute?

A few months ago I participated in a retreat focusing on evolution (due the occasion of it being Darwin’s 200th birthday). In fact, I found that I learned more biology during this weekend event than I have ever remembered learning in previous years (which may not be something to brag about, but it was a very interesting weekend). Having a limited understanding of evolution prior to this, I was surprised to find that the idea is really quite reasonable and easy to comprehend. Yet for some reason, it is framed in staunch controversy between “religious” and “scientific” minds so that one might be led to believe that there is no middle ground.

But if the scientific theory of evolution is able to produce accurate predictions concurrent with our observations of the natural world, is it not worth learning and utilizing? Does that lend it “truthfulness?” Some may have philosophic differences that make it difficult to reconcile evolution and religion. But if it is useful in the context of science, why not give it a try?

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to say that a person “believes” in evolution or that they “believe” in science. Rather, we should use science as a tool to make discoveries, predictions, and engineer new technology. So what is “truth” and what bearing does it have on science? Is there an a priori truth? How do we know what we know?

I certainly don’t know what the "answer" is, but I would love to start a conversation, possibly in this new course. I love to listen to and participate in heated, rational debates. Those are my favorite. And whenever possible, why not tie it into something as exciting as science?

Take care,